Y2K Survivalists

Updated August 5, 2020 | Infoplease Staff

Should you be stockpiling canned food?

by Gerry Brown
Rivera's Portrait of America

The survivalist mentality in Diego Rivera's Portrait of America (1934).

Related Links

At 11:59 p.m. on December 31, 1999, many Americans will be waiting with hands on corks for the year 2000 to arrive. Others, however, will be crouching in bomb shelters with canned food, fearing the worst.

Either way it's going to be a big night. Recent polls have shown that Americans are increasingly confident that the Y2K bug will not ruin their holiday weekend.

More and more people, however, plan to take precautions just in case the predictions of widespread service failures are right. In a poll by USA Today and the National Science Foundation, forty percent of the respondents planned to stockpile food and water.

Who Are The Survivalists Anyway?

Survivalists expect a serious calamity to occur on December 31. Individuals have fled urban areas and some groups have even built large shelters underground.

Ed Yourdon, a computer consultant and author of Time Bomb 2000, moved his family from New York City to rural New Mexico because he feared disaster in the Big Apple on the big day. Yourdon is the unofficial leader of the Y2K survivalists and thinks that the vast majority of people are unprepared. The author has said that if only some of the things that could go wrong do go wrong, he expects New York could resemble Beirut.

Y2K: Myth or Reality?

How far fetched are the doomsday scenarios? No one knows for sure.

Along with Yourdon's book, dozens of books have been written on the possibility of a Y2K calamity. Hundreds of sites offer advice on planning for the worst come Y2K. The recommendations range from the extreme to the benign: move from urban areas to a rural home, convert your liquid assets to gold and silver for bartering in a more primitive economy, and stockpile food and home heating fuel like wood and coal.

Many of these same sites predicted widespread panic in the financial markets before January 1, 2000. We are now less than a month away and there are no apparent problems in the markets. But consider the other possibility: Do you have any gold to trade?

Horseless Carriages and Jury Duty

In the interest of full disclosure, a few Y2K glitches have already popped up. In Maine, owners of 2000-model cars received titles in the mail for 1900-model cars called horseless carriages (the term that the state uses for cars from 1916 and before). The titles were quickly fixed and resent. In Philadelphia, about 500 people received notices calling them in for jury duty in the year 1900.

A Global Issue

Many say it's not the U.S.A. that has to worry, it's everyone else around the world. Other nations have been slow to update their computer systems. This will in turn corrupt our computers through international markets, potentially leading to a global economic crisis and widespread civil unrest.

The Japanese government is taking no chances. They have put 96,000 troops on "millennium alert" just in case something happens on New Year's Eve.

No one can say with absolute certainty what will happen when the clock strikes midnight. The possibility of something unforeseen has definitely added more than the usual excitement to New Year's preparations. And if the only ones who make it through the potential pitfalls are the bona fide Y2K survivalists crowing "I told you so," maybe the rest of us won't want to survive the disaster anyway.

Sources +